June 3, 2014 at 3:43 pm

Report has flaws but names Detroit safest city from natural disasters

Detroit has been named the safest city in the nation. When it comes to natural disasters anyway.

After crunching federal weather data and insurance figures, Detroit sat atop HomeInsurance.com’s “Top 5 Cities Safest from Natural Disasters,” which includes severe weather and catastrophes such as floods, hail, tornadoes, wildfires, hurricanes, earthquakes and winter storms.

“Don’t rule out the Motor City. Detroit came out way ahead in all of our criteria, with only 3 major disaster declarations and four total declarations from the Federal Emergency Management Agency during the last 10 years,” said Katherine Wood, a blogger on the website.

Charlotte, N.C., checks in at the No. 2 spot followed by San Francisco, Denver and Boston.

The findings are based on: the number of weather events, property damage, personal injury, major disaster declarations and average insurance premiums.

But there was some misinformation in the piece as the blogger attributes Detroit’s severe weather conditions to its proximity to Lake Huron. Detroit sits on the Detroit River, which is between its source, Lake St. Clair, and its mouth, Lake Erie. In addition to the misnomer, Dan Thompson, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in White Lake Township, the report presents other issues.

“One thing that is problematic about the study is that it only includes the last 10 years,” Thompson said. “It seems to be more of a climatology of weather events over the last 10 years more than a risk assessment. We still have the possibility of tornadoes, hail, strong winds, flooding, and major snowstorms.

“The risk of severe weather from thunderstorms is less than say, the Great Plains, but there is still risk. The one thing that favors us is that we don’t have earthquakes or hurricanes.”

Of the weather events Detroit has seen in the past decade, one in four deal with flooding while another quarter of the happenings are a result of hail, according to the blog, which cites the NOAA National Climatic Data Center Storm Events Database.

“Both are products of occasionally intense spring and summer thunderstorms,” Wood writes.

The 17-county area of eastern Michigan that the weather service monitors averages six tornadoes a year. So far, there have been no tornadoes, but weather events have been predominantly wind advisories, flooding and hail.

TBriscoe@detroitnews.com
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